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Religion and Society

Lebanon Under Hezbollah?

The entrusting of the formation of the new government to Najib Mikati marks a shift in the political life of Lebanon. The appointed premier in fact secured the votes of the opposition which include – among other parties – also Hezbollah, while the parties reunited in the ‘March 14 Alliance’ had reproposed the name of Saad Hariri. The result of the talks, decisive for the choice of the premier, was 68 votes in favour of Mikati against 60 for his rival. The consequent majority-opposition reversal would not have been possible without the 7 votes of Walid Jumblat’s parliamentary group. The Druze leader had in fact left the centrist position just a few days beforehand, which he had adopted in the last months, to go back and firmly side with ‘Syria and the resistance’. Jumblat justified his new (and umpteenth) sudden shift with the desire to avoid the negative effects of the indictment that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), appointed to shed light on the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, is preparing to publish in the next weeks and which will concern, according to a number of indiscretions, some Hezbollah members. In other words, the Druze leader, put before the alternative of civil peace or justice, opted for the first.



Background Events



Over the last months the Lebanese have anxiously followed the developments of a secret mediation between Syria and Saudi Arabia (the Lebanese call it S.S.) aimed at settling the crisis. In fact for months the two parts of the government of ‘national unity’ led by Hariri had clashed on the question of the ‘false witnesses’ that would have diverted the investigation by the STL, bringing it in the direction of Syria. The two most influential regional powers on the Lebanese scene would have reached an agreement that foresaw the withdrawal of Lebanon from the STL. It seems that Hariri gave his consent to such solution in exchange for a number of political advantages, before recanting it on the occasion of his visit to the United States. In response 11 ministers under the opposition presented their resignation, causing the fall of the government and the start of new talks.



Moves and False Moves 




Hezbollah is convinced that the Americans are trying to discredit it by means of the STL and tries to defend itself as best as possible. Even with ‘the institutional arm’ of numbers. The Lebanese Sunnis, orphans of Hariri, instead lay claim to the right to find and bring the guilty to justice. What appear to be two irreconcilable positions have created strong reciprocal suspicions, fuelled by different false moves. What created the deep unrest among Lebanese Sunnis was the fact that Mikati’s candidature to the office of premier, traditionally reserved for a member of their community, was proposed by Hassan Nasrallah himself, Hezbollah’s secretary.



There are 27 Sunni deputies in the parliament, 20 of whom are in Hariri’s group. To nominate other names sounds like an ‘affront’ to the preferences of the community. For Hezbollah on the other hand, the Mikati hypothesis was intended to be a compromise solution following Omar Karame’s withdrawal from the run. Mikati, in fact, had shown moderation at the head of the government which proclaimed the 2005 general elections. In these elections, the victory went to Hariri and the anti-Syrian camp.



Lebanon Under Hezbollah?




Hezbollah had 2 ministers out of 30 in the old government and in the best hypothesis will manage to get 3 in the next one. To claim that Lebanon will be ‘governed’ by Hasan Nasrallah and that it will become a second Gaza is out of place. Undoubtedly the Party of God can count on the support of its allies, in the first place Amal’s, the Shiite movement led by the president of the Chamber Nabih Berri, then by Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (Christians). Mikati will no doubt make an effort to maintain his profile as moderate by including various technocrats in his government able to guide the country in the tough situation awaiting it.



Whatever shape the new government may take, it is a question of seeing whether (and above all in which way) it will welcome Hezbollah’s requests, aimed at repudiating the SLT: to withdraw the agreement protocol with the UN, to cut the Tribunal’s funds and to withdraw the Lebanese judges working there. This does not mean, the pro-Hezbollah claim, that the SLT will have to stop its work, but that Lebanon reserves the right to accept its conclusions or not. On the other hand, instead, the ‘March 14 Alliance’ prepares protests and sit-ins to stop impunity winning. These are all actions that can culminate on February 14, the sixth anniversary of Hariri’s assassination. Some fear that the SLT’s indictment will be made public around that date.



Will the few days separating us from that date be sufficient to re-establish the splits, or will Lebanon be once more confirmed as the preferred area for clashes between regional and international powers?




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